Saturday, March 07, 2009

TV This Week: LOST, BSG, 24, Dollhouse

LOST. This is the third episode of LOST in a row that has been really good, and the rare LOST episode that is basically really happy too: Sawyer and Juliet find love, Juliet delivers a healthy baby, and those left behind find work and safety -- I feel like there has not been a feel good episode of LOST since Hurley wanted to fix that truck. The best part of the episode was Sawyer's conversation with Alpert. For years now these mysterious Others have known EVERYTHING. They walk up to our characters with detailed files on their entire life and all of them go "How can you possibly know that." For the first time here the tables are completely turned, as Alpert is amazed that Saywer knows about the bomb and the disappearing man who claimed to be the leader of the Others in 1954. (With the time travel stuff it seems pretty clear that the Others got those super accurate files from the castaways themselves 30 years before flight 815 went down). Like The Constant this episode had a really solid emotional core: Sawyer telling Horace that 3 years is enough to get over someone and then confronting him with Kate at the end was just good storytelling. I am a little troubled by some things: I did not like that we saw the statue from the back, because it suggests the front might be some kind of reveal -- and I cannot imagine how lame it would be if the face of the statue turned out out to be someone we know. And just as I was confused about the need to lie the whole "we have to get back to the island to save everyone" is feeling pretty thin right now since the castaways are not in the kind of perpetual hell we heard they needed saving from, AND we had to crash a whole other set of passengers to get back to these five people. And what happened to Rose and Benard and the other 815ers, if there are any left after the flaming arrow attack. Maybe that reveal is coming -- they all became others or something -- but no one seems even a little interested. I keep coming back to the fact that on the plane Ben said of the other nameless passengers "Who cares?" Which on some level is totally how I feel, which makes me complicit with him. Oh, and I adore the ticking bomb of the purge of the Dharma initiative.

BSG. All that remains is the two part season finale -- as little as 80 minutes of BSG or is one double sized? In any case looking back over season 4 I have to say I have lost a lot of faith in this show. The acting and character moments are so often great, and it was dramatic for them to lose Earth as a goal, but now it feels a lot like I am on that ship with the characters, all of whom seem to be waiting around for the series finale. Not having a goal sucks a lot of the forward drive out of a show, and just as the humans lost earth the Cylon "plan" that was appears at the front of all the opening credits seems to be non-existent. It seems like the final things the writers needed in place for the end was that Anders can jump the ship (thanks to the cylon goo, which failed to save the ship -- so this was its only purpose in the narrative) and the idea that Starbuck is the resurrection and the life, and also the harbinger of death. I remember when she crashed into that vortex and came out the other side with a new ship, reborn from her own death. Please tell me the fleet is not going to crash into something and be reborn with a new Battlestar Galactica on a clean healthy Earth. I am not sure what this show needs to end, but I feel like it is going to be something sudden now, like when 6 said "oh, and there is this resurrection hub, lets blow that up." A lot is riding on how this show sticks the landing.

24. The AV Club said about this episode "Probably the best way to view tonight's double-header 24, covering the hours from six to eight pm, is as a low-budget '80's action movie, something that Canon might've put together with Chuck Norris in the lead. It's not that surprising, and the story falls apart if you think about it much at all, but the shooting, yelling, and teeth-gritted seriousness do have a certain charm." Though I will agree that the debates over torture, so painfully loaded and illustrated, are pretty bad I thought this had a lot of charm. 24 has always been some kind republican fever dream about all the things they say threaten America happening, and all their suggestions for dealing with it working. People object to this on principle, and I certainly do not agree with the conservative party on these points, but I love how shamelessly 24 embraces it, and thinks that thought all the way to the end. This episode was STUNNING in that regard. A dozen African men, all very dark skinned, assault the white house and take down the whole thing in less than a hour; and as they kill random people a secret service men ALL the faces are white, and many are women. Even with Obama in the White House, this is the vision of terror they come up with. Amazing and ridiculous. The only thing that should happen in season 8 is Jack Bauer establishes himself as a "benevolent" dictator. You have to admire the sheer commitment to the concept here. This show is as American as pointless wars and SUVs.

Dollhouse -- I have the last two to talk about, but I have a more generally sense of what bothers me about this show. It was invented over lunch between Whedon and Dushku. I imagine that as the idea developed they must have said to themselves that this show was super-resonant: these beautiful men and women who are hired to become other people, but maybe the lose sight of who they are in the process, and forget where they came from -- and maybe the people that manufacture their identities and keep them happy do not have their best interests at heart. This is a show that seemed to have universal appeal over lunch in LA because EVERYONE THEY KNOW is involved in something like this: actors and actresses, producers, PR people, agents and so on. For the rest of us -- not so resonant themes. Mostly it is hard for me to get over the Saturday afternoon adventure series sheen over the whole thing -- as my friend Alex said, maybe this show would be better if they had not spent so much money on the set. Ultimately, the premise still bothers me as I cannot see how a place like the Dollhouse can be justified for reasons other than theme, but the Alpha plot has me interested and I am hoping that will kick into high gear with episode six.


Andrew said...

I thought the fourth episode of Dollhouse was a big step up from the third (which was almost intolerable) if for no other reason than a heist story is always at least somewhat interesting.

Marc Caputo said...

According to, the 3/13 ep of BSG is regular and the 3/20 is double-sized, beginning at 8:00 PM. And that's all she wrote. Increasingly little time to wrap things up satisfyingly, I fear.

And like I've noted for a while, showrunner Ronald Moore was a staunch defender of the way the Sopranos ended...

Anyway, I'm glad you liked Watchmen - there's a movie that the more that certain people liked it, the quicker I was getting out to see it.

ba said...

Sara and I already went through the reasons why dollhouse is sucking so terribly, so I'm not going to repeat it, but...I think this fanboy "wait until episode 6!" clarion call will reach the height of irony if it gets cancelled after episode 5. I think Whedon is TRYING to get another show cancelled, so he can maintain his image as a fuller-esque TV martyr.

sara d. reiss said...

my hate for dollhouse justabout equals the show's pretentiousness

as for 24, i was in the room while geoff watched in on his computer but I didn't really "watch it" HOWEVER, I was able to call out what was going to happen next before it did. this is why I don't really get into 24, it's just too predictable.

Magro said...

On the Lost statue:

And I have strange feelings towards Dollhouse. Gonna support it a little more.

Telosandcontext said...

I remember mentioning how I felt people's complaints about the apparent tenuous reasoning behind "the lie" was essentially nitpicking about something that didn't really matter to the overall motivation of the characters, but with that said, I think they have to make a big deal about Jack, Kate, Hurley and co.'s reaction to seeing Sawyer and co. so blissfully well-adjusted on the island, since Locke's principal rallying cry for their salvation was achievable only by coming back to the island. The question remains: what really saved the day? Locke locking the island. Or Jack hi-jacking the plane. I do NOT apologize for those terrible puns.

It's also quite possible that Locke misinterpreted what Richard told him about bringing them all back. Locke assumed this is all about what would stop the flashes, but maybe Richard was killing two birds with one stone, since the only way to get them back to the island (and do whatever it is they really have to do) involved Locke moving the island anyway. Thoughts?

As for the statue, that was an awesome callback to just throw in there, especially since people were thinking the four-toed thing would never really be seen again. But no, they showed that fucker in all its glory, only, I agree: showing it from behind sets up its reveal as a big deal and it would be PAINFULLY STUPID to reveal the face as being a character we know, while also being a HUGE LETDOWN if revealed to be any of the Egyptian gods that have relevance to the story. I mean, does anyone really care if it's Anubis, Horus, or Tawaret? I sure as hell don't.

As for this Dharma business, I don't really know what to make of it, or where it's going, but there are two moments I'm looking forward to:
1) Benjamin Linus coming to the island as a boy and being introduced to the Losties
and 2) the moment when Chang and co. experiment on the donkey wheel with that damned polar bear

My two-cent prediction? That is what will finally reunite all the characters in all the timelines to set up the ultimate end game of Lost.

jennifer said...

geoff. i thought you might find this amusing.

"Actor Kiefer Sutherland is fighting imaginary terrorists the green way. Producers of 24, the FOX drama that chronicles Sutherland's Agent Jack Bauer as he races to capture crooks over a nail-biting 24-hour period, are buying carbon offsets to compensate for the global warming emissions they're releasing with every car crash and explosion."

and, although i agree dollhouse is very uneven.
the speech on art by the guy in the vault made my brain hurt, for example...
i am beginning to enjoy it.
watching it from a more charlies angels, grindhouse aesthetic.

Jason said...

Wow, a B-plus for Watchmen? Really?

I cannot wait to read your review. I must've missed something, 'cause I thought it was weak sauce.

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

I pimp my friend's blog:

and my own:

for statue-related speculation. I know it's goofy and stupid, but theorizing about the statue with my brother and my friends has been tons of fun for the last 5 days.